The ever-growing scepticism towards the capacity of the rigid nineteenth- and twentieth-century museum model to transgress its own institutional boundaries is paralleled by an unprecedented growth in scale and extravagance of exhibition spaces, reflecting the art market’s expansion over the last three decades. Further questioning the contemporary relevance of the museum is the fact that today the global media – a virtual place with no historical memory – has replaced the museum in informing both our visual culture and our perception of art.

The aim of the unit is to reflect on the paradoxes of contemporary museums and their current ideological, cultural, social, structural and technological transformations. Stimulated by a dense programme of specialist seminars and workshops analysing different scales and museum typologies (including state and private institutions, kunsthallen, galleries, provincial museums and temporary structures), students will work as independent researchers focusing, among other aspects, on: the notion of museum as repository; contemporary collecting and art storage practices; the rise of the curator; the inflation of the art market; the effects of the digital; museum franchises; the dogmatic constraints of the museum climate; and temporary art events.

Alongside this research – which will be compiled in end-of-year books and generate individual design proposals – all students will design an essential component of any contemporary museum: a pop-up art bookstore. Far from an abstract design exercise, the project of the book pavilion, developed in close collaboration with Technical Studies, will be run as an actual design competition and the winning design will be constructed as a pop-up store for Lars Müller Publishers. The detailed design brief, including the curatorial strategy of the book display, will be developed with the students in Zurich on the occasion of our first unit trip to Switzerland and Italy.

View extended brief (PDF)